tv Meet the Press MSNBC May 30, 2011 4:00am-5:00am EDT
this sunday, is medicare the new third rail of american politics? why the fight over the future of an entitlement for 47 million older americans has become the key battle for 2012. tipping the balance in a closely watched house race this week in upstate new york. and emerging as a key sticking point in the budget battle as republicans and democrats go to the wire over the debt ceiling. >> according to senator schumer, their focus is on an election that's still almost two years away. well, my suggestion is the democrats start thinking about putting their names on something other than an attack ad.
they could start with a budget, how about that? >> what does it all say about washington's ability to tackle the hard problems? this morning, two key voices in the debate, the republican leader of the senate, mitch mcconnell of kentucky, and democratic senator from new york, chairman of the democratic policy committee, chuck schumer. then, our "political roundtable" on the race for the white house. new signs sarah palin is ready to run. is she really in it or simply sending a message? is she headed for a showdown with tea party favorite michele bachmann in iowa? and what impact would she have on establishment candidates like pawlenty and romney? is jon huntsman a front-runner or a nonstarter? plus, the president spends the week on the world stage and now comes home to devastation in missouri where he visits the tornado-ravaged town of joplin today. former democratic congressman from tennessee, harold ford, jr., republican strategist alex
castellanos, columnist for "the washington post" ruth marcus and columnist for "the new york times," david brooks. captions paid for by nbc-universal television good morning. the president returned last night from his six-day european trip and leaves the white house again this morning to travel to tornado-ravaged joplin, missouri, where he will visit with survivors and family members of that terrible storm that hit a week ago and has left devastation all throughout the area. more than 120 people dead, more than 100 still missing. here in washington, meantime, no break this memorial day weekend from the intense debate over the budget, overhauling medicare and the upcoming vote on increasing the debt ceiling. all of this, of course, as the fast-approaching 2012 presidential election year makes the climate in congress even more contentious. here this morning to tackle those issues and more, two key senate leaders from each side of the aisle, the republican leader mitch mcconnell of kentucky, and from the other side of the
aisle, the senior senator from new york, chuck schumer. we will begin here in the studio with the leader of the republicans in the senate, senator mcconnell. welcome back to "meet the press." >> good morning. >> i want to show you the scene from upstate new york, that special house election. kat kathy hoechel prevailed and here was the scene. the chant was "medicare, medica medicare." this was a key issue based on how the republicans are trying to overhaul medicare. the question is this, has this become the new third rail of american politics, touch it and you get burned? >> you know, we've had a regularly scheduled election in our country every two years since 1788, right on time. we're about a year and a half ahead of the next one. and at critical points throughout our history, when we've really had to step up to the plate and tackle big issues, we've done it, in spite of the fact that in america there's always an election coming up. where are we? well, we know that the co-chairman of the president's deficit reduction commission, erskine bowles, said that this is the most predictable crisis
heading our way. that's our debt and deficit, the most predictable crisis in american history. we know the chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, when asked what was the biggest national security threat to the united states, said the debt and deficit was our biggest threat. it's time to act, david, regardless of the election a year and a half from now. and you know, the president, to his credit, is at the table through the discussions with the vice president and members of the house and senate over the issue that is confronting our country. look, standard & poor's recently sent us a warning signal about the downgrade of the credit rating of the united states. we have a $14 trillion deficit -- debt, the size of our economy, which makes us look like greece. and by the way, $50 trillion plus in unfunded liabilities and popular entitlement programs. >> it's huge and the entitlement program is the heart of it, but i ask the same question, which is, is medicare the third rail? look, you've said, reportedly,
to the speaker of the house, john boehner, i wouldn't push this ryan proposal because politically it's going to hurt the party. >> well, i don't know where that quote came from, but the point is, what are we going to do about the problem? we know that -- oh, you want to talk about medicare? the president says medicare needs to be on the table, the vice president says medicare needs to be on the table. steny hoyer, the number two democrat in the house, says medicare needs to be on the table. it is on the table in the discussions related to the debt ceiling. >> but not in its current form. if it passes as part of the debt ceiling vote, it's got to be different, does it not, than the ryan plan? >> as you pointed out from my comments in the lead-in, the democrats have no plan at all. we have four votes in the senate -- >> fair enough, but if there is going to be a debt ceiling on the medicare reform, would you concede it's got to look a lot different than the ryan plan? >> no. it's on the table. we're going to discuss what ought to be done. everybody agrees something ought to be done except the democrats in the senate who have no plan at all. >> but you're not even -- you haven't even said publicly whether you're for the ryan plan.
so you're not behind that version of medicare reform. >> i voted for the ryan budget this week. >> you didn't whip up your colleagues, though, to get additional support. >> we had different versions in the senate. we had a republican senator in the senate, had a plan, senator paul had a plan. the only people who didn't vote for any plan at all -- by the way, we had a vote on the president's budget, didn't get a single, solitary vote. not a single democratic senator voted for the president's -- >> but do you support ryan's reports? >> the guy you'll have on after me thinks that all we're doing right now is positioning for the 2012 election. what about the country? what about the next generation, not the next election? >> i'm just trying to understand where you are particularly on how to change medicare -- >> let me tell you. >> you're not -- you don't believe that the ryan plan is the basis of where you're going to get agreement? >> i voted for the ryan budget this year. >> but do you believe it's the big -- it failed. it's not going anywhere. >> with all due respect, the president in the united states, the only person in america who can sign a bill into law, is at the table along with the vice president and we are discussing a package that will begin to deal with deficit and debt --
>> but leader, i'm not asking you to negotiate. i'm just asking you to help in the interests of what i assume you want, which is building some political consensus around reform, having a conversation publicly on television like this, saying what are the contours of that that could actually get some democratic support? >> well, this is not the place to do that. the place to do it is in the discussions with the one individual out of 307 million americans who can sign a bill into law, and those discussions are under way and i can assure you, david, that to get my vote to raise the debt ceiling, for whatever that's worth, my one vote, medicare will be a part of it. the details of that are yet to be negotiated with the guy who can sign it into law. >> but do you have to keep the basis of the medicare problem in place? that your view? because that's not what ryan is proposal -- >> no matter how many times you ask me to kind of craft what the medicare fix should be like, i'm not going to give that answer to you today because that's a subject to be negotiated with the president of the united states. >> but do you understand that the currents here in the republican party -- when newt gingrich was on the program and
called ryan's plan right-wing social engineering, conservatives flocked to his aid and said the ryan plan is a litmus test for conservatives in america. what you're saying is not that. you voted for it but didn't rally your colleagues behind it and it failed. so there seems to be a split in the party about what should constitute reform. >> actually, there's little split in the party at all. we all know medicare is going to change, it's got to change. david, trustees of medicare and social security who are appointed by the president of the united states, and it includes members of his own cabinet, just said a couple weeks ago that medicare's going broke. the one thing we know we can't do is nothing, and our democratic friends in the senate have no plan at all. the president, to his credit, is at the table discussing with us the way in which you save medicare. medicare is going down. doing nothing is not a plan, and we're going to negotiate the contours of the plan in these negotiations. i'm personally very comfortable with the way paul ryan would
structure it in the out years, but we have a democratic president. we're going to have to negotiate with him on the terms of changing medicare so we can save medicare. >> are you confident that the debt ceiling will ultimately be raised? >> i'm confident that unless we do something really significant about debt and deficit, it's not going to be raised. it's not going to get my vote unless we deal with the problem raised by the request of the president to raise the debt ceiling. in other words -- >> did medicare -- >> this is an opportunity. you know, scare tactics about what if, what if you do this, what if you do that -- the point is, use this opportunity to come together on a bipartisan basis like ronald reagan and tip o'neill did in 1983 to save social security for another generation. they came together, made an important adjustment. and by the way, you know, all this talk about next year's election? after participating in raising the age limit for social security, reagan the next year carried 49 out of 50 states.
anything we agree to do together, david, will not be an issue in next year's election, but this is about the future of the country, not about the election a year and a half from now. >> let's ask about taxes. this is an area where democrats and republicans do not see eye to eye. and republicans have been adamant that there aren't going to be any tax hikes as part of a global deal, a broad deal to bring the deficit down and to bring the budget in to balance. former president clinton spoke this week about this issue and suggested that that republican hardline seems to defy the course of history. this is what he said. >> the idea that the lower the tax rates are, the better everything will be has been debunked now for 30 years, both in positive terms when i was president and in negative terms by quadrupling the debt once and then doubling it again. so, i mean, how many times do we have to see this movie before we know how it ends? >> response? >> well, you know, in that same appearance, he also said that medicare should be a part of the discussion, and the democrats face up to it, as the
president -- >> yes, he did, but i'm asking you to respond to this piece. >> yeah, look, we have a fundamental difference of opinion. if there is any issue that clearly divides republicans and democrats, it's taxes. we think we have this problem because we spend too much, not because we tax too little. and you've heard us have this debate over the years. we're going to have it again next year in the course of the election, because the president wants the rates to go up again next year. we've got a two-year extension of current tax rates right now. i think we can stipulate this is an issue upon which there is deep-seeded difference -- >> here's the issue i keep coming back to, which is aren't you republican leaders guilty of the same thing you accuse the president of on health care, which is not doing enough to build actual political consensus around these issues? if you're not going to give anything up on taxes but you want to bring the deficit down -- you say, no, these are ironclad principles. i mean, that's where you said the president was on health care. how do we tackle real problems? >> but that's not where they are on the issue we were talking about earlier in the program.
you've got the president, vice president, president clinton, steny hoyer, all saying medicare has to change. so that's not something we don't agree on -- >> we're a long way from changing the medicare program the way paul ryan wants to. >> well, we're going to discuss how to do it, but on taxes, it's another necessary. we don't have the problem because we tax too little. >> can i ask you two little ones. elizabeth warren, who's supposed to head up the consumer bureau, the president's appointment to do that -- would you back her or would you join republicans to block her nomination? >> well, we're pretty unenthusiastic about the possibility of elizabeth warren. we're pretty unenthusiastic, frankly, about this new agency, and we've sent a letter to the president saying some changes need to be made in the cfpb, the consumer financial protection board, because as it's currently constituted, it answers to no one, and i think could be a serious threat to our financial system. >> and what about politics? you've said that the big goal of the republicans is to make this president a one-term president.
>> of course. >> yet, 22% of those polled indicate they've got no preference for any republican running. is not having a clear nominee a good thing, a bad thing or a normal thing? >> you know what i'm reminded of in how the white house was thinking in '79 and '80, they were pulling for ronald reagan. they thought he was too extreme and too old, and surely, if he were the nominee, they'd be just fine. somebody's going to get on waning streak here on our side, and when you start winning, people start paying attention. this is going to be an extremely competitive contest for president next year. >> and what impact will sarah palin have if she becomes the nominee? >> she'll go out there and compete like all the rest of them. it's going to be fun to watch. >> maybe i'll just go back to asking you about medicare. senator, thank you very much. >> thank you. >> we now turn to the chairman of the democratic policy committee, the senior senator from new york, senator schumer. welcome back to "meet the press." >> hi. glad to be on. >> senator, let's get back to this issue of medicare and the question that i asked leader mcconnell. is this the new third rail of american politics, you simply
can't touch it? is that the legacy of this race in upstate new york? >> well, you can try to end it, and that's what they're trying to do in the ryan budget. you've heard senator mcconnell. he says even after the election in the 26th, he's comfortable with the ryan budget. you see the "wall street journal" writing no retreat on medicare. newt gingrich gets attacked because he says the ryan plan is wrong. look, the only way we're going to come to an agreement on the budget and the debt ceiling is if senator mcconnell and his republican colleagues take the ryan plan off the table and take it off now. >> but it is off -- senator, it is off the table. it failed in the senate. look, you've got a reality here as democrats where your hometown newspaper, "the new york times" this morning talks about the high price of timidity of the democrats on medicare. and here was, as senator mcconnell referred to, former president clinton speaking about the deficit and medicare this week. he had a warning for democrats, and this is what he said.
>> i'm afraid that the democrats will draw the conclusion that because congressman ryan's proposal i think is not the best one, that we shouldn't do anything, and i completely disagree with that. >> and i agree with president clinton. every democrat from the president, steny hoyer, president clinton, senate democrats, we agree that ryan should be taken off the table, that it's a complete stumbling block. and i am calling on -- we are calling on senator mcconnell not to cling to the ryan plan as he's doing, which ends medicare as we know it, but to take it off the table. now, what do we propose? we have been proposing changes in medicare for a while, but we believe in preserving the current system. medicare delivers a very good product. most people are very happy with the health care they get. it's just an inefficient system, and there are ways that you can change the way medicare delivers things without cutting the
benefits to individuals and still save hundreds of billions of dollars. anyone who has gone through the medicare system knows the inefficiencies and duplications in that system because it's a cost-plus system. we began this a year ago, and the republicans attacked us for it. they attacked us because they wanted a radical -- now we know why -- they wanted to radically change things. but let me tell you a few things we're proposing. >> before you do that, waste, fraud and abuse is the typical handle of any politician talking about how to bring prices down. take one example in medicare, which is, as part of the president's health care reform, that you're not going to do hospital reimbursements at the same level. that could save you some money, but that's a big if. that assumes that that actually stays as part of the law and that future congresses have the courage to maintain that, which they have not had when it comes to cutting payments for doctors over the years. >> well -- >> so, there's a lot of built-in savings that don't really get to the core of the problem, which is that the program is unsustainable. >> well, let me tell you what is the core of the problem.
the core of the problem is basically two things, one, that providers get away with much too much and many of them were given too many things. for instance, if medicare negotiated the price of prescription drugs, was allowed to, republicans prevented that from happening a few years ago but negotiated the price of prescription drugs with the drug companies, we'd save over $100 billion. second, if -- there's something called duel eligibles. a senior citizen on medicare and medicaid, medicare used to pay the medicaid cost of the drug much lower. republicans said no, pay the medicare costs, another $100 billion. but here's the root of the problem, it's a cost-plus system. when you're sick, a doctor gets paid for each service, each prescription, each pill, each test. if you were to tell doctors you get a certain amount of money to treat jim smith, who has a certain form of diabetes, say
$10,000, every study shows that you'd save hundreds of billions of dollars without cutting the benefits to people. that's what democrats stand for. and the reason our republicans colleagues resist is they don't want the present medicare system to be preserved. >> but here, senator -- >> that is what their -- >> the political temptation here is for democrats to simply use this as a tactic to do what they did in new york, in the upstate race, and to prevail by saying, essentially, republicans want to take away health care. look, bill clinton, who looked at this and obviously understands and wants to preserve medicare, warned democrats not to do nothing. again, "the new york times" -- let me just read this -- on thursday, editorialized this way, the headline, "running on medicare the right way." democrats can't spend the entire campaign attacking ryan's plan. bill clinton was right on wednesday to warn his party it must bring down the costs to have any credibility on the deficit and the economy. so, i want to ask you a broader question -- is there a danger for democrats in not seriously engaging on medicare as being seen as abdicating
responsibility on really fighting the deficit at large? >> i don't know a single democrat who is saying do nothing. that is mitch mcconnell's way of diverting attention from the ryan plan, which he refuses to take off the table, which is highly unpopular. the bottom line is very simple -- we already proved our bona fidities in last year's bill, where we extended medicare's life by 12 years by doing some of the things that i talked about there on delivery system reform. and we're going to continue to do that. there's a choice here. there are three choices. one is to do nothing. one is to preserve the benefits but change the delivery systems and not let some of the providers like the drug companies get away with so much. and one is to end medicare as we know it. democrats are in the second one. republicans are in the third one. until mitch mcconnell abandons the third one, we are not going to get a budget deficit agreement. it's that simple. and i was in touch with bill clinton last night. he agrees completely with what i
said. there's no difference between bill clinton, barack obama, steny hoyer, chuck schumer, senate and house democrats. the difference is between us and republicans. they want to end medicare as we know it. if you turn it over to a pure system where the insurance companies govern, here's what happens. according to cbo, non-partisan. the beneficiaries, instead of paying 25%, pay 68%, but at the same time, the costs don't go down. they continue to rise because the insurance companies pass the costs to the beneficiaries. that is wrong. that is not politics, i would say to my dear friend senator mcconnell. that is what america's all about. we will oppose them in the budget negotiations if they don't abandon ryan, and it will legitimately be one of the major issues of the election year in 2012. and i'll tell you one other thing, david, if republicans -- i've studied elections for a while, and if either party moves too far to the extreme, they lose. republicans are rapidly moving in that direction to an extreme
direction by ending medicare as we know it, by saying in their budget they'd cut things like cancer research and aid to help middle class kids get to school, by even opposing something like a lautenberg amendment, which says if you buy a gun, you should be checked on a terrorist watch list to see that you're not a terrorist. if they continue this way, not only will we keep the senate, but we're very likely to pick up the house. that's what's going to happen, and that's legitimate. mitch mcconnell said his goal is not to elect president obama, and then he says we shouldn't talk about elections? give me a break. >> i want to end just a couple minutes here talking about the issue of israel and the fact that prime minister netanyahu of israel here was across purposes with president obama. it was striking as you see the prime minister appearing before congress, interrupted 29 times with hardy applause and standing ovations, at the same time when president obama's speech about a return to the pre-1967 borders should be the framework for a palestinian state. are you concerned about how out
of sync the president appeared here in america with how the prime minister appeared to get a response here in america? >> well, look, i agree with what leader reid said in his speech on monday night, and that is that the borders should be negotiated by the two parties and there shouldn't be set preconditions. what we've learned through history is when any party tries to impose preconditions, it just doesn't work. and so, while i think the president is good to get involved because nothing much was happening and no one can hold that against him in any way, the parties are going to have to negotiate the boundaries themselves. >> but here's -- jeff goldberg of "the atlantic" magazine and "a bloomberg view," wrote a column this week, and he said that failure to get a peace process started is going to very quickly have the arab spring on the israeli doorsteps. he writes about it this way -- "israel will soon enough be seen by most of the world as the occupier not of a disputed territory, but of a foreign country. the palestinians will wake up to find that a general assembly vote did not, in fact, give them true independence and then there
will be an explosion. the palestinians who are watching yemenis, libyans and syrians fighting for their freedom will soon be inspired to once again take up their own fight. if israel misses the chance this year to set the palestinians on a course towards independence, it will jeopardize its future as a jewish democracy." do you fear that a second -- not a second, but another enterfatah is coming and that the results for israel could be quite negative? >> well, no, i -- look, israel has always been beleaguered throughout its history, and there are too many people in the whole world, and particularly in the arab world, who really still don't believe there should be two states. the majority of israelis do believe there should be two states. 85% do. and until the other side is willing to sit down and negotiate -- every time israel has sat down and tried to negotiate, the palestinians have backed off, and it's a very difficult situation. but i'll tell you this, what the palestinians should have done when prime minister netanyahu said let's sit down and talk, is
talk. instead, they formed an alliance with hamas, labeled by the u.s. a terrorist organization, a group that doesn't believe in israel's right to exist. and when israel gave up the settlements in hamas' area, gaza -- they gave up all the settlements. what was hamas' response? not, oh, gee, let's sit down and talk, but to send rockets into israel, pre-1967 israel and stay rogue. so, the problem here is not israel, in my opinion. obviously, i want them to sit down and talk and come to a compromise, no question about that, but the problem has been the intrans-jens of the other side and the whole world has to recognize that before we're going to get any peace. >> all right. we're going to leave it there. senator schumer, thank you, as always. >> thank you. and coming up, sarah palin kicks off a bus tour this morning in washington that will take her up the east coast, including new hampshire. is this a sign she's running for president, and if so, what will it mean for the rest of the
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coming up, mitt romney is expected to make his presidential candidacy official on thursday. so, when will the 2012 field be set? could there be any more surprises in store? plus, what role will medicare play in next year's election? our roundtable is here, ready to weigh in. harold ford, alex castellanos,
we're back joined by our "political roundtable," republican strategist alex castellanos, former democratic congressman from tennessee, harold ford, jr., columnist for "the new york times," david brooks, and columnist for "the washington post," ruth marcus. welcome to all of you. let's get right to it. 2012 politics, it's all around us. here's the picture of the bus that sarah palin will be taking up the east coast, talking about restoring america. a live shot. this is a scene at the pentagon this morning. rolling thunder getting ready to go, and sarah palin's going to address this rally a little bit later on. "the hill" had a great headline on friday as well, and here is the headline, sarah palin is "keeping them guessing." is she getting into the race? >> i don't see sarah palin getting into the race at all. i don't think there's a place for her. now i think the real sarah palin is michele bachmann, and she's in. and she's doing well in iowa -- >> where she was born. >> announcing i think in
waterloo. so, i don't see a lot of room for her. but palin, i think, fears re-electing barack obama more than anything else. i think she understands she can't beat barack obama. she wants to renew her brand, refresh her brand. she can be the power behind a thousand thrones. she just can't sit on the big one herself. >> david brooks, we'll get that poll ready of how the republicans stack up currently. do you not see a role for her in the race? because mike huckabee is out. she could certainly be the social conservative in the race. >> yeah, but you know, being president is waking up, somebody hands you the crisis and says there's a crisis in venezuela, what are you going to do about it? does anybody think sarah palin's ready for that? i don't think so. so, she can manage her brand, but running for president is not "american idol," and i think people may agree with her, they may like her, but that doesn't mean they're going to vote for her. so i mean, you know, the other thing is she's just not a team player. this is a team sport. take one little thing she's done this week. she's taking her bus up to new hampshire.
she doesn't call the republican party in new hampshire, tell them where she's going to appear, what she's going to do. you've got to play as part of the party, part of the team. she's not a team player and i don't think people will think she's qualified. >> ruth marcus, this is a closed society. i mean, palin world is a closed society. even people, smart republicans don't know what she's going to do. to that point, you know, when she makes appearances, she doesn't necessarily coordinate well. there's a feeling -- one republican i spoke to this week said, look, she's lost some support among rank in file republicans. yet, look at the polling. again, a lot of this is about name recognition, too. this latest one this week has rudy giuliani on top at 68%, romney and palin at 13%. but she's got to look at this and say on name recognition alone, in an unsettled field, there's room. >> i don't know if she's necessarily looking for room. alex said her biggest fear is having barack obama re-elected. i think her biggest fear is having sarah palin's name recognition go down. i think she can make her own space. she gets on the bus and we're all talking about her and paying attention to her, and that
elevates the sarah palin brand, and i think that's what this is about more than trying to position herself to be the one who has to be woken up with that 3:00 a.m. phone call. >> there's not a crisis in venezuela yet, by the way. i just want to make sure, i want you to be aware. >> i think she realizes that more and more people are coming to some sense that it could be true, is that the eventual nominee of the republican party is not in the race yet. for rudy giuliani to be on the top of a gop presidential list when he's declared he doesn't know if he's going to run or not, you have pawlenty, all these splashes, sarah palin has every right to say i'm going to look at this and maybe pursue this. >> do you think there's nobody in the race that's going to win yet? >> i think the winner is probably already in the race for the republican nomination, but palin's problem is you can't just echo the republican party's resentments and lead. you have to say follow me, we're going to go over here. palin leaves the room and republicans are exactly where they were about she entered. so, she's not taking the party anywhere. i don't think she's a serious
candidate at all. but the thing about primaries, david, and i've said this before, they don't pick candidates, they make them. this is such a tough process. somebody's going to beat somebody else. that means they're going to grow, they'll get bigger. it happened to the seven dwarfs. one of them turned out to be bill clinton. >> look what happened this week. tim pawlenty had an excellent rollout. he had a very good video, a good message. he's sharpened his message, linked his biography to what the country needs. excellent rollout. huntsman went up to new hampshire had a pretty good time up there. romney's had problems, but he raised a lot of money. he's still mitt romney. i think it will be one of those things. >> let me show the bulletin board which we keep updating on who's in, who's out, where people stand. you can see those who are out. romney makes it official on thursday, topping those among who are in. what is interesting is those still officially on the sidelines -- huntsman, palin, of course, and bachmann.
and rick perry, who made some noise about getting in, texas governor. >> i agree that one of the dwarfs or one of the non dwarfs will become the nominee, and probably somebody already on that bulletin board. but i think one of the effects that palin has is to suck up the energy. we didn't start out this segment talking about tim pawlenty, who announced this week. we started out talking about sarah palin. and so, to the extent that romney is a known quantity, people don't necessarily like him, but he's passed the kind of presidential plausibility test. pawlenty sort of has the aspect of the guy who's just gotten a chance to sit at the grown-ups' table, and people see him as a nice guy, but not necessarily -- he hasn't passed the point where they can imagine him being president. he needs the space and time to be able to do that. sarah palin sucks up some of his oxygen. >> i want to react to something you wrote this week, alex, and talk more from the point of view of president obama and how he fairs. you wrote "newt gingrich is the devil in the red dress" was the headline.
"barack obama can only defeat a republican like newt gingrich. obama barely won the presidentsy in '08, though he held the best hand of cards any candidate in our lifetime had. obama still required an unprecedented economic meltdown to put him over the top. he still could not beat mccain, he had to beat george bush. anywhere in america where bush had an unfavorable rating, obama won. in this election, with democratic blue states like florida, north carolina and virginia returning to republican red and unemployment higher than any president who has won re-election has suffered, obama needs a similarly unpopular opponent." >> i think that's the case we have. you know, we always say in politics you can't beat somebody with nobody. obama may be the rare beast that can only get beaten by a nobody. he does not want this to be a referendum on obama. he needs to create what he had last time, which was an unpopular george bush figure. who is that in the republican party? that could be a newt gingrich, a sarah palin, i think that could be a michele bachmann. but if he's running against a
pawlenty, a huntsman, even a mitt romney, it's going to be much harder to demonize a republican. if he goes out and says, you know, the republicans wants to throw grandma out in the snow on medicare, a republican who's unobjectionable, who can say, gee, i guess i'm going to have to break the bad news to mom soon and kind of laughs it off, could beat barack obama. >> let me be clear about what i mean about the republican might not be in this race. it's obvious and by what alex and others have written and said, republicans believe they'll run a competitive race in 2012. all the factors you mentioned, unemployment, the fact that george bush is not on the ticket, and it's probably unlikely sarah palin will be on the ticket at any level, those factors, bush and palin played a big role in obama surging to the lead and winning the presidency a few years ago. having said all that, i think that a rudy giuliani, rick perry and others are going to take a hard look at this. tim pawlenty had a great rollout, huntsman. they may be the ones. but barack obama will be tough to beat. i disagree with part of alex's premise. you look at part of their
message developing this week, what they did with the car industry. had the american people, had george bush not had the tamarity and barack obama not had the audacity to continue with that and talk and ensure the financial system did not collapse. it's hard to run on that, but these are realities. and when you look at the stock market over the last few years, he has a case and something to settle. at the end of the day, the talk about the medicare and social security cuts, as relevant as it may be, alex, david, ruth, you all know, no president wins by saying we are in a terrible position as a country, we have to cut and cut and cut. people want to hear growth. they want to hear how we're going to get back to where we are, and then you get to the message of cutting. the problems with the republicans arc rollouts in the last few days and weeks, is all they talk about are cuts and doom and gloom. americans want to hear about how we grow, how we create and then how we cut, and that's lacking for them. >> but it is the economy, david. and dan bowls is writing this morning about the economy and mitt romney saying this guy didn't have the experience, mitt romney does, and that's the rationale. it's a referendum on the
economy. no democrats has won since fdr with unemployment higher than 8%. >> issues do matter and the economy matters. on the republican side, there is a staleness about what they're offering the country, no more tax cuts. people have heard that. on the democratic side, there is a problem where obama will say we have massive problems with the unemployed, massive problems with the middle class and i'm offering you light rail. and so, there is big problems, no solutions. i'd say neither party has an agenda for the next four years. >> harold's point, though, about the austerity message, the dark doom and gloom message, he's right, it doesn't sell in a general election. but in a republican primary, doom and gloom does very well. now, in a general election, the republican candidate does need to do exactly as he's saying. next time, get happy later. >> i want to take a break here and come back and pick up on something everybody's been saying about solving big problems and whether we have a political system that's prepared to do that, particularly as we get closer to the re-election year. more from our roundtable right after this. tempur-pedic i
we are back now with more from our roundtable. medicare is the fight. what newt gingrich started a couple weeks ago on this program has not gone away. here was pat bagley in "the "salt lake tribune"" with a cartoon of medicare cuts cutting off the nose to spite the face. that's what medicare is doing. the campaign arm of the house of representatives, he was part of our "press pass" conversation. you can see the whole conversation on our website. this is what he said would be the lesson for republicans. >> the reason that kathy hochul won in new york 26 is because she won independent voters and seniors. we lost the majority in the house of representatives because we lost independents and seniors. they came back to democrats in the 26th district of new york over the issue of medicare, and so, that's very instructive to
us and it should be instructive to our republican friends. >> so, ruth marcus, what wins here, bold leadership on medicare and the argument that the democrats won't do something courageous or the democrats who say, hey, those guys want to take away my medicare? >> i regret to inform you that i think it's the latter. and i think when you were asking senator mcconnell if medicare was the new third rail of american politics, i think the question was wrong in a sense, because it's the old third rail of american politics. this play has been run time after time. if you go back and look at the quotes from president clinton, back when he needed to win re-election, they sound a lot like the quotes from democrats today about don't let those republicans take away your medicare. the difference is that the debt is bigger, the deficit is bigger, the gap is bigger, and the situation is more dire. but i think that, sadly, the lesson of new york 26 is mediscare works. >> the question, david brooks, is whether there is going to be a deal before they raise the
debt ceiling on medicare and what that looks like. senator mcconnell wouldn't say it, but he's certainly not backing the ryan plan. he's not going to go to the map. if you don't whip up the vote in the senate, that's not going to the mat. it's letting your members vote. it would be something different than what ryan is talking about. >> right. if you ask americans, should we cut medicare to help end and reduce the deficit, 70% say no. so that's pretty strong. that's what happened in new york 26. i agree with ruth's analysis on that. so, what do republicans like mitch mcconnell do? they can do a couple things. one of the things that would be useful is to cut a deal that includes medicare, to have dramatic fingerprints on a medicare reduction plan, which would be good for the country. and by getting the democrats involved, then that would reduce that as an issue. then what they have to offer is tax increases on the rich. now, would the democrats take that up? i'm not sure. and frankly, i don't think it's likely, but that's what the republicans need. i think it's much more likely that we'll have really a fudge deal on the debt ceiling, a deal of a government shutdown problem
this year and a very large chance of some sort of fiscal crack-up within the next couple years. i was up on wall street this week. i know more about political risk than they do. they are vastly underestimating the source of political risk here. we could have a major problem, i think, either this summer or the next couple of years, and i'd be worried about investing too much in the market. that's my financial advice. >> luckily, the market's closed. >> harold, what about the issue of timidity? it's ironic that what newt gingrich said out loud on this program about right-wing social engineering and don't do the ryan plan is what a lot of republicans were saying privately, of course. then here's bill clinton giving ammunition to the republicans by saying to the democrats, don't be timid here. don't go to the old, you know, mediscare tactics. do something courageous. is that going to happen? >> i hope. the efforts under way by joe biden, by the great vice president, defined some compromise. i'm a believer after watching president clinton in the last few days that perhaps if they get close to a deal, president obama might ask president
clinton to come back in and convince some of the democrats that this is the right thing to do. i was most encouraged, though, by mcconnell this morning. he backed away from standing so firm and steadfast with ryan, suggesting strongly that he's ready for a deal, and even listening to chuck schumer this morning. he talked with more specificity about where they would go. so, it's obvious we're moving in a direction where democrats a few weeks ago said no medicare. i live in upstate new york, the race, as much as it was about medicare, it was also about people wanting jobs, about people feeling government's not being fair where they're asking for cuts. they want some tax increases in some areas. so, i think there's a larger story that's being told there, and i hope that both parties listen. >> but alex, there's a larger theme here of leadership that will be tested, and i want to point something out that the vice president spoke about. he spoke about the bin laden raid in the context of what it could mean for the president politically. this is what he told the "l.a. times" -- >> "vice president biden called the death of osama bin laden a defining moment that has
reshaped how americans view the obama presidency, signaling howe the daring raid will figure into the 2012 campaign. the american people no longer confuse being contemplative with having courage." will this matter in the context of what harold was talking about, still needing jobs? >> i think president obama clearly has joe biden's vote this time, but beyond that, you know, this is certainly a peak for obama. we all know what comes after a peak. they're trying to sell the strong leadership story. immediately after that, we spend two weeks, the president debating in public whether he should release a photo and all kinds of indecision still in libba. so, i don't see this having a long-term impact. it's not the agenda america cares about. america really cares about medicare right now and the economy. i think the congressman's right. and republicans have a much better hand, i think, than we're giving them credit for. remember, last time we lost three special elections, then we took 63 seats in the house. why? we got a heads-up. we just got a heads-up on medicare. and here's what i think
republicans are going to say. you love your medicare, seniors, don't you? you count on it. it helps you sleep good at night. good. did you know it's $35 trillion in debt? our economy's going broke and dragging medicare along with it. in a little over 3,000 days, cbo says your medicare's going to end. we've got a plan to do something about it based on that bipartisan clinton commission. help us save it. republicans are going to be able to neutralize this pretty much next election and fight the war on the economy. >> that's interesting, because again, the down side for democrats is that this becomes not just a proxy. i mean, the deficit fight becomes the fight over the economy. and republicans have struggled in terms of that through line, making it about jobs, this fight about the deficit. >> well, democrats have two challenges. the fundamental challenge for president obama is to do what he can do, and there is a question about how much that is, to get the economy on a good track, on people believing that it's on the right track by the time of the election. harold was exactly right when he
talked about all of the things that the president did at the beginning and continuing some of president bush's t.a.r.p., the auto bailout, the stimulus. all of those things contributed, in my view, to saving the economy from imploding, but nobody believes that out there, and voters are not going to be assured of that until they see good performance, which is why i think mitt romney's "i'm going to fix the economy" message is the message that i would run with if i were a republican. at the same time, the president has to show some seriousness, and this is his real leadership test, on the fiscal situation, because i agree with david, we don't know when -- it is a predictable crisis, but we do not know when that crisis is going to hit, and when it hits, it could hit hard. >> let me get another break in here. we'll come back with our final "trends and my contacts are so annoying. they're itchy, dry and uncomfortable.
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we're back in our final moments with our roundtable. key discussion here with our newsmakers, mcconnell and schumer, was about the budget fight, the medicare fight, and it was senator schumer laying down a marker in these budget negotiations. watch. >> we will oppose them in the budget negotiations, if they don't abandon ryan, and it will legitimately be one of the major issues of the election year in 2012. >> so, david brooks, ryan is the plan to change medicare as we know it. we know that medicare reform is part of this discussion being led by the vice president. is it realistic that they're going to get a deal on some kind of medicare reform to then get a deal on at least the debt ceiling vote? >> i was feeling the love from chuck schumer. i didn't really see any prospect of a deal there. i mean, this is a test of national character. do the american people understand that medicare is going to be bankrupt on its current trajectory, and can elites like mcconnell and schumer actually create a deal? i didn't see much hope today from what the two were saying. i saw a little movement maybe on both sides, but obviously a long way still.
>> and one piece of the movement we have not seen, and i understand that it cannot be shown in public, but until republicans acknowledge that in order to get our fiscal house in order, we're going to need more revenue than we're currently planning to raise, you cannot get a deal. and one other thing, quickly, to understand about a medicare deal is any medicare deal is not going to produce a lot of cuts in the near term in the first ten years. so, that's something else that's going to be difficult in negotiating a debt agreement. >> and let me get to the week ahead for politicians on the republican side who are hitting the trail. mitt romney's going to make it official this thursday in new hampshire. sarah palin has her tour up the east coast, and that's supposed to land in new hampshire as the week moves on. tim pawlenty is in iowa. bachmann has events in new hampshire as well. looks like she's getting ready to announce, though, in iowa, where she was born. santorum's still out there. giuliani, actually taking a look at this, as harold suggested, he's going to be in new hampshire as well. as for president obama, we mentioned he'll be in joplin,
missouri, today. he's also preparing as early as tomorrow to nominate general martin dempsey as the new chairman of the joint chiefs, the president's top military adviser, of course. he is currently the army chief. he would take over for departing chairman admiral mike mullen. earlier, i was on the "today" program mentioning general cartwright. i misspoke there, because he had been ortaken by some criticism of him. but harold, a point about not just the week ahead, but the politics. >> you're president obama. can you imagine being able to run on i brokered a deal to cut spending in medicare and social security? he ought to lead on this front. i saved and created millions of jobs in the car industry, we killed bin laden. you come back in the fall when the jobs numbers aren't where you want and urge republicans, after you've given them a fiscal austerity bill to do a jobs bill. he's unbeatable. if you don't do those things, i think you're weaker next year. >> and you've got to be able to say, look, i'm for the thing that the republicans are for, but they're just way too extreme. >> deficit reduction is not extreme at all. saving medicare is not extreme
at all. i think harold's right, if obama moves right on deficit reduction, real deficit reduction, i'm a reasonable version of what republicans want, he'll be tough to beat, but i don't see a medicare deal happening right now because republicans need to play the politics. they've played policy. now they need to play politics because that's all the democrats are doing. so, i think it's going to be -- you know, we've launched a missile on the deficit, and it's either going to hit the deficit or it's going to hit grandma's house, you know? we've got to explain that this is real deficit reduction that's going to save medicare. >> all right. we will leave it there. thank you all very much. that is all for today. we're going to be away next sunday during nbc sports coverage of the french open, but we will return the following week. if it's sunday, it's "meet the press." and we leave you this memorial day weekend and we honor and remember all of the men and women who have given their lives remember all of the men and women who have given their lives in service to this -- captions by vitac -- www.vitac.com ♪